Wayne H., In re

Decision Date21 June 1979
Docket NumberCr. 20584
Citation24 Cal.3d 595,596 P.2d 1,156 Cal.Rptr. 344
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 596 P.2d 1 In re WAYNE H., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. Kenneth F. FARE, as Acting Chief Probation Officer, etc., Plaintiff and Respondent, v. WAYNE H., Defendant and Appellant.

Wilbur F. Littlefield, Public Defender, Dennis A. Fischer, Kenneth I. Clayman, Elliot Talenfeld, Harold E. Shabo, John J. Gibbons and Albert J. Menaster, Deputy Public Defenders, for defendant and appellant.

Thomas V. Roland, Berkeley as amicus curiae on behalf of defendant and appellant.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., Jack R. Winkler, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., S. Clark Moore, Asst. Atty. Gen., Robert F. Katz and Robert R. Anderson, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.


The defendant appeals from judgment declaring him a ward of the juvenile court and committing him to the Youth Authority. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 602; all statutory references are to that code unless otherwise indicated.) The wardship adjudication is based on a finding that he committed armed robbery. (Pen.Code, § 211.) We will uphold the defendant's contention that his incriminating statement to a probation officer was improperly admitted as substantive evidence of guilt.

Near 9 p. m. on November 23, 1976, a black male brandishing a pistol robbed a Lerner gas station in Gardena, and escaped with $54 in denominations of $20, $5 and $1 bills. The station attendant described the robber as wearing a "yellowish-goldish-brown" jacket and a dark knit cap. Shortly before the robbery an attendant at another Lerner station in the vicinity had noticed the suspicious movements of a gray Chevrolet containing two persons, one of whom was wearing a dark knit cap. She telephoned the police.

Responding to the robbery call, Police Officer Williams observed a gray Chevrolet Nova with driver and passenger travelling away from the crime scene at a high speed. After the Chevrolet "ran" a stop sign, Officer Williams pursued the vehicle. When the passenger threw a pistol out the automobile's window, the officer stopped the vehicle and arrested the occupants. Defendant, a 16-year-old black male, was identified as the passenger. He was wearing a yellow jacket. A beanie cap, a dark knit cap, and $54 in $20, $5 and $1 bills were found on the floorboard of the passenger side of the Chevrolet.

The arrests occurred around 9:10 p. m. Both suspects were taken to the Gardena police station, booked, and held overnight. The next morning, November 24, defendant was questioned by Detective Lynn. Defendant denied any involvement in the robbery and offered an alibi.

At 8:10 p. m. on the 24th, defendant was taken to the Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall where he was interviewed by Probation Officer Wright. Officer Wright gave defendant Miranda warnings and explained that the results of the interview would bear on the determination of whether or not defendant would be detained and whether juvenile fitness proceedings would be recommended. Defendant agreed to discuss the case and again denied involvement. When, at the end of the interview, Officer Wright announced that he intended to recommend detention and a fitness hearing, defendant replied, "I did this one."

Defendant was detained in custody and a petition under section 650 was filed charging him with armed robbery (Pen.Code, § 211) (par. I) and possession of stolen property, i. e., the pistol (Id., § 496, subd. 1) (par. II). At a subsequent fitness hearing, defendant was found amenable to treatment as a juvenile. In the ensuing jurisdictional hearing, defendant's statement to the probation officer was admitted over objection as evidence of his guilt. The charges contained in paragraph II were dismissed, the allegations of paragraph I were found to be true, and, as noted, defendant appeals from the subsequent wardship adjudication.

Defendant contends that statements by a juvenile to a probation officer are inadmissible in any subsequent proceeding as confessions or admissions of guilt, or for purposes of impeachment. We agree that the statement in question should have been excluded.

Section 626 affords several options to a peace officer who takes a minor into custody: he may release the minor outright (subd. (a)) or upon a written promise to appear (subd. (b)), or "without unnecessary delay" he may deliver custody of the minor to the probation officer (subd. (c)). If the minor is brought to a probation officer, the latter must investigate the need for further detention, and must release the minor unless specific circumstances are found. ( § 628.) At the time here relevant the probation officer was also charged with filing a wardship petition on any minor he detained (former § 630); the probation department has further responsibility to recommend a hearing on the issue of transfer to adult court. ( § 707.)

Courts have recognized a number of situations in which the use of statements by adult defendants to a probation officer as admissions in a trial on the issue of guilt would be unfair. Thus, we have held that statements made to a probation officer in the hope that candor will induce a favorable sentencing report are inadmissible against the defendant in any retrial (People v. Harrington (1970) 2 Cal.3d 991, 999, 88 Cal.Rptr. 161, 471 P.2d 961) unless "volunteered" by the defendant under the guiding hand of counsel (Id., at p. 1000, 88 Cal.Rptr. 161, 471 P.2d 961; People v. Alesi (1967) 67 Cal.2d 856, 861-862, 64 Cal.Rptr. 104, 434 P.2d 360). Postconviction admissions to the adult criminal court made on a probation officer's advice in hope of lenient treatment are also excluded from use at any subsequent trial. (People v. Hicks (1971) 4 Cal.3d 757, 762, 94 Cal.Rptr. 393, 484 P.2d 65.)

Similar results have been reached under the Juvenile Court Law. Admissions by a juvenile to a probation officer for use in the preparation of the social study, and to the juvenile court itself in the course of a section 602 jurisdictional hearing, have both been excluded from subsequent adult criminal proceedings. (Bryan v. Superior Court (1972) 7 Cal.3d 575, 587-588, 102 Cal.Rptr. 831, 498 P.2d 1079.) Similarly, it has been held that, where a probation officer obtains damaging statements from a juvenile in the course of preparing the social study, without prior advice to the minor's counsel when the attorney's identity is known, the statements must be excluded from any subsequent juvenile adjudication proceeding. (In re Paul T. (1971) 15 Cal.App.3d 886, 893-894, 93 Cal.Rptr. 510.)

The cases have stressed the law's interest in encouraging complete candor between a defendant and his probation officer in the probation interview. The purpose of such an interview is not the marshalling of evidence on the issue of guilt, but rather the assembling of all available information relevant to an informed disposition of the case if guilt is established ( §§ 280, 702; Pen.Code, § 1203), or to assist in the evaluation of the minor's fitness for treatment as a juvenile ( § 707). Such decisions, courts have uniformly concluded, should be based on the most complete knowledge of the defendant's background that is possible. His description and explanation of the circumstances of the alleged offense, and his acknowledgment of guilt and demonstration of remorse, may significantly affect decisions about punishment or transfer for adult proceedings. (Bryan v. Superior Court, supra, 7 Cal.3d 575, 587, 102 Cal.Rptr. 831, 498 P.2d 1079.)

Thus, "(a)s stated in People v. Garcia (1966) 240 Cal.App.2d 9, 13, 49 Cal.Rptr. 146, 148, . . . quoted approvingly in Hicks (supra, 4 Cal.3d 757, 94 Cal.Rptr. 393, 484 P.2d 65), 'in order (for the probation officer) to get full cooperation from a defendant he should be advised that any statement he makes will be used only for the information of the court in a probationary hearing. We do not doubt that defendants have that belief and that if they knew their damaging admissions could be used against them in another trial they would not talk freely and the purpose of the interview would be frustrated.' (P) . . . The minor who is subject to the possibility of a transfer order should not be put to the unfair choice of being considered uncooperative by the juvenile probation officer and juvenile court because of his refusal to discuss his case with the probation officer, or of having his statements to that officer used against him in subsequent criminal proceedings. (Cf. In re Paul T. (supra) . . . 15 Cal.App.3d 886, 894, 93 Cal.Rptr. 510. . . .)" (Bryan, Supra, 7 Cal.3d at pp. 587-588, 102 Cal.Rptr. at pp. 839-840, 498 P.2d at pp. 1087-1088.) Such a result would frustrate the rehabilitative purposes of the Juvenile Court Law.

The People suggest that the rule excluding statements to juvenile probation officers applies only to subsequent Adult criminal proceedings, and, in the case of minors, only After an adjudication of guilt, when the proper treatment of the minor is being considered. In contrast, it is urged, the section 628 interview which precedes guilt adjudication is primarily accusatorial, and the "dilemma" faced by a minor in this situation is common to any criminal suspect who must decide whether to cooperate with the police. The cases, and the Juvenile Court Law itself, however, compel a contrary conclusion.

Both Bryan and Paul T., supra, involved statements by juveniles made Before determination of criminal culpability, and the Paul T. court held that the statements there at issue were inadmissible in a subsequent Juvenile adjudication proceeding. (See also In re R. (1970) 1 Cal.3d 855, 859-861, 83 Cal.Rptr. 671, 464 P.2d 127 (juvenile judge may not, Prior to jurisdictional hearing, read social study prepared by probation officer).) Bryan stressed the importance of the relationship between the minor and probation officer in the juvenile court setting (7 Cal.3d...

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